Five Verve albums from a stretch when the legendary Oscar Peterson was really hitting his stride – packaged here in a single collection, all in tiny LP-styled sleeves! First up is Oscar Peterson Plays Count Basie – which features Count Basie taken down a few notches – not in quality, but in terms of the size of the group – as Oscar really opens up some of the Count's standards in a whole new way, by playing them with a stripped-down quartet that features Herb Ellis on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Buddy Rich on drums. Given that Rich is working with the Peterson trio, their sound has a bit more bottom than on some other Verve sides from the time – grooving things nicely in a true Basie way, on a set of tunes that includes "Blue
s For Basie", "Broadway", "Topsy", "One O'Clock Jump", and "Jive At Five". On Jazz Portrait Of Frank Sinatra, Oscar pays tribute to Frank – but he uses his keys, not his voice – to come up with some great renditions of tunes from Sinatra's classic Capitol years! It's true that Peterson was known to vocalize on some sessions (most notably on his tribute to Nat King Cole, recorded a few years later) – but this album is straight trio grooving, with Peterson skipping soulfully over the keys of the piano, abetted by Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums – in a wonderfully-crafted set of tunes that includes "Witchcraft", "Come Dance With Me", "You Make Me Feel So Young", "All Of Me", "It Happened In Monterey", and "The Tender Trap". Jazz Soul Of Oscar Peterson is one of the first Peterson albums to ever feature "soul" in the title – added, no doubt, as a way of keeping up with Ray Bryant and other pianists making their name in the growing soul jazz field at the time! There's a groove here that's a bit harder than usual for Peterson on Verve – a heavier approach to rhythm on the keys, and a more focused trio formation – one that clearly sets a pace for albums to come in the 60s, but which must have been relatively striking to Peterson fans at this point. The trio here features Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums – and tracks are longer than usual, with some really great room to stretch out! Titles include "Liza", "Con Alma", "Close Your Eyes", "Maidens Of Cadiz", and "Woody'n You". Porgy & Bess is less an interpretation of Porgy & Bess than an extrapolation of its themes – one that lets the Peterson trio recraft the music into their own! Given that the Porgy & Bess theme had been explored heavily by many other jazz albums of the late 50s – due to the release of the film at the time – Peterson clearly knows he's got to take a different approach here, and manages to dissect the tunes in really unique ways – bringing in gentleness where it wasn't before, and finding space for new music between note
s that are already familiar. Of course, it helps a lot that he's got Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums – as the album's almost a three-pronged melodic attack – with great versions of titles that include "Summertime", "I Got Plenty O Nuttin", "I Wants To Stay Here", "Oh Lawd I'm On My Way", "Bess You Is My Woman Now", and "Bess Oh Where's My Bess". Last up is the West Side Story score – but handled here by the great Oscar Peterson Trio – in ways that really push the tunes past their Broadway roots! The approach is tight, soulful, and filled with strong lines from Peterson on piano – plus bass by Ray Brown and drums from Ed Thigpen – that classic trio from the early 60s that came together in different ways than Oscar's group of the 50s. The set features an especially nice long take on "Jet Song" – plus versions of "Something's Coming", "Somewhere", "Tonight", "Maria", and "I Feel Pretty".